Next week I will be showcasing my documentary ‘The Shaman’s Last Apprentice’ at the World Ayahuasca Conference in Ibiza. The mere fact that this ‘Unesco supported’ conference exists is testament to how hugely important a topic Ayahuasca is right now. From 25th – 27th September, over 400 people from 42 different countries are coming together on the white isle to discuss the future of this potent and important plant. I am very honoured to be part of this momentous occasion.
Sixteen years ago when I became an apprentice to an Ayahuasquero Shaman in the Peruvian Amazon, the medicine was only beginning to become known. It was contained in the North Eastern Amazon of Peru and despite actively looking for it I could not find it in Colombia.
Western people were coming to Iquitos to drink it, but it was a very small minority with only a handful of reputable shamans to drink with and lodges. Now things are very different. In just a few short years Ayahuasca has become the new plant on the block.
Ayahuasca tourism is now flourishing, and Ayahuasca ceremonies are being held all over the world as people from all walks of life are being called to drink this plant medicine. It is the call of nature herself because this is the essential medicine of our times, a medicine to shift consciousness, a medicine to wake us up out of our trance like state and see what we are doing to this wonderful planet and to ourselves. My understanding is that somewhere along the way our DNA was damaged and we disconnected ourselves from Mother Earth. We have forgotten that we are a part of nature not apart from it. This schism in our connection has led to the current crisis we are now facing.
It is going to take a shift in consciousness to wake us up to the terrible nightmare we are in and realise that things need to change. I believe that this is why Ayahuasca is spreading around the world so quickly. Ayahuasca is the medicine that can wake us up and remind us who we are, and how each one of us must take personal responsibility for what is happening.
However, its popularity is a double edged sword, as its sacrality and use are being compromised. Unfortunately, in the West, we are used to ‘instant cures.’ In our desire to get immediate results from our pain and dis-ease we can often misuse this medicine because of our own ignorant understanding of how plant medicine actually works. There are many Westerners offering the medicine without the proper training or experience, with emphasis and focus on the visions rather than the much deeper cellular healing of DNA.
The rise in Ayahuasca’s popularity has also sparked the interest of pharmacology. The pharmaceutical industry is now exploring the potential of Ayahuasca as a pharmaceutical medicine to be taken in pill form, removing it from it’s traditional use as a medicine brew to be taken in ceremony, under the supervision of the Shaman. The Shaman’s role is an essential element of Ayahuasca, the teachings being passed down from teacher to apprentice orally. The Shaman traditionally grew Ayahuasca for the community, keeping it localised and sustainable. Interestingly it takes seven to ten years for the vine to be of a mature age, which seems to reflect the nature of the plant, and how its lessons are learnt over a long period of time.
The popularity of Ayahuasca has lifted it out of the Amazon and taken it into an urban context where the ceremony differs according to who is administering the brew. The guidelines are blurred as to how it is appropriated, used, or prepared, making Ayahuasca tourism a minefield of dodgy Shaman, dodgy brews and no real understanding of the importance of this ‘vine of death.’
As Ayahuasca continues to spread her vines across the globe this Ayahuasca conference is an important milestone so we can discuss the many different aspects, perspectives and elements of this powerful and consciousness shifting medicine and hopefully come to some agreements and guidelines so that Ayahuasca remains a sustainable, life-changing medicine.
For those of you who are attending the Ayahuasca Conference the documentary is being shown at 6-7pm on 25th September, Room 4